XVII Prague Gothic Treffen – Fuchs2/BikeJesus, Prague – 26 & 27 August 2022

This was my first time at PGT, having been foiled last year by the Czech authorities (sensibly) banning tourism from the UK on account of us being a load of plague carriers.

First up was Isiolia (CZ), a one-woman electro-pop act. Catchy tunes and a charming performance which got the festival off to an excellent start. Her album is “name your price” on Bandcamp – do treat yourself.

Naturata Brutalismus

Next up was Naturata Brutalismus (DE, etc). It’s no secret I’m a long-time fan, though this is only the second time I’ve seen them live. A wonderful, intense, artfully crafted show (once the fog cleared enough to actually see them) accompanied their angry, intelligent brand of deathrock. Emilio is a stunningly charismatic front man. A new album is coming soon so keep an eye out.

The Frozen Autumn (IT) are a band I’d heard good things about and are on the (very) long list of acts I intend to check out in more detail in my imaginary spare time. Another synth-based act, they fall further along the goth-y axis of darkwave than Isiolia. The two of them trade off vocals so there is a mix of male and female vox. I didn’t love them, but I liked them a lot and definitely bounced around some. I would see them again and willingly listen to their material.

Paar (DE) are another band on my never-ending “check these out” list and people I trust like them. Guitar-based and further up the “punk” axis, they are good at what they do but really didn’t do anything for me. By that time I was very hot and sticky, though, so I’m willing to give them another chance.

I like Selofan (GR) a lot and saw them last autumn when they played in Bristol, a gig which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was sparsely attended and in a petty terrible venue, so seeing them in a packed hall full of enthusiastic fans was much better. I’ve lost track of how many male/female synth-based duos I’ve seen in the past year, but Selofan are definitely one of the best, both the quality of the material and the performance, which is made more interesting by their backdrop slide show. Buy their stuff and absolutely check them out if they play a town near you.

I had a vague notion to at least stick around for a song or two of Christian Death just so I could pad out the “number of bands seen this year” but I was very hot and my feet hurt and just no. I’m of the vintage who firmly believes that Christian Death ended when Rozz left and that Valor is an ass. I could kind of hear them from outside so had the misfortune of enduring the murder of a couple of early tracks. I later heard that Valor said that Covid is a hoax onstage so I made the right call. How anyone still gives them the time of day is beyond me.

Day two was even hotter and stickier, so I was prepared for this to turn into some kind of endurance test. The quality of the bands meant that that was not to be the case.

The opening band for Saturday was Ksy (PL). I have their album, which is OK, and the last time I saw them they were beset by technical difficulties and it was impossible to gauge what they’re like as a live act. This time they absolutely killed it. A live drummer has been added, and they were tight and energetic and angry (you don’t have to speak Polish to understand that this is very political stuff). They put the “punk” back in postpunk and were a storming start to the evening’s entertainment.

Her Own World – Photo courtesy of Francisco Dias

Her Own World (also PL) were too EBM for my taste, but the tuneful, catchy kind of EBM and they were pleasant enough. My companion who is more into EBM loved them. If I hadn’t been so hot and looking forward to bands further up the bill I would have danced, but instead I just observed from the bar.

Wisborg – Photo courtesy of Francisco Dias

Wisborg (DE) were the revelation of the festival for me. I knew a few of their songs (see above re: lengthy list of bands to listen to), liked what I’d heard and prioritised seeing them, but I was unprepared to be so completely blown away. In theory they are too goth rock for me, but I was in love with the live performance – they absolutely rock, but there were also moments that kicked me right in the feels. Cue an emergency purchase of the vinyl edition of all three of their albums (with thanks to the kindness of strangers who helped me out of a cash flow crisis situation). I’ve been listening to these albums almost constantly since I got home and I can’t emphasize enough how wonderful they all are.

Wulfband (SE) were (as far as I’m concerned) the bad kind of techno-y EBM – doof, doof, doof. Blergh. I grabbed some air (a bit futile, it was no less hot and humid outside than in) and went down to the basement venue to paste myself to the front of the stage for:

The Last Days of Jesus
The Last Days of Jesus – Photo courtesy of Francisco Dias

The Last Days of Jesus (SK). I’ve been a fan of these guys forever but have never managed to see them live before. They’re one of the bands that saved my life over lockdown. The live show was just WOW! The singer has unbelievable amounts of energy – so much jumping and kicking. I was amazed the tiny stage managed to contain the whole performance. I haven’t danced that enthusiastically to a live band through their whole set in a very, very long time. It was just a wonderfully joyous experience and very much an “I can die happy” moment. (Their entire back catalogue can be purchased on Bandcamp for just over 15 Euro – DO IT!)

Kaelan Mikla – Photo courtesy of Francisco Dias

Because I stuck around for their encore, I missed the beginning of Kaelan Mikla (ISL). If I have a criticism of the festival, it’s that the bands start one right after the other so if you’re invested in seeing the whole of one band’s show you miss the start of the next one, which can be a problem if two bands you love play back to back. Kaelan Mikla were a priority for me since they refuse to play the UK due to Brexit red tape. Even from up on the balcony I couldn’t see much, but they sounded lovely. Unfortunately their set was cut short due to technical issues. Will definitely see them again even though I’ll have to travel to do so.

I failed to put as much heart and soul into the festival as I intended and didn’t get near the stage much so I’ve had to use the photos of others. I haven’t experienced heat and humidity like that in about 15 years and didn’t have time to acclimatise. Going outside didn’t help, we were just hit by a different wall of wet air. Having said that, it’s a super friendly festival of just the right size with a reliably killer lineup, I had a great time and made new friends and have it pencilled in for next year.